Environmental Impacts of Industrial Revolution
24 Oct 2016
The Industrial Revolution alludes to the process of transition from a handcraft agrarian economy to machine and industry-dominated economy. This revolution, which took place between 18th and 19th century, began in Britain and later spread to the rest of the world. This revolution marked the beginning of widespread extraction and the usage of fossil fuels. Industrial revolution contributed to the improvement and progress in enriching the quality of lifestyle and comfort to human beings globally (Cooper & Gutowski, 2015). However, the negative effects on the environment brought about by various factors of the industrialization are destructive and in some instances have resulted in permanent damages to our environment. This paper presents three such negative impacts and the resultant changes to the environment. The paper further explains the efforts of the Environmental Movements that safeguarded the environment and created awareness from the 1970s. Finally, it identifies the laws and regulations enacted by the US government over the years to curb environmental issues and assesses the effectiveness of these regulations as well as recommendations to improve the environmental condition.
Negative Environmental Impacts and Changes on Environment
Over-reliance on Fossil Fuels
The industrial revolution brought about the need to depend on fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum based fuels to run the machines and industries. Combustion of these fuels to release energy produces gasses such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide among others, which pollutes the air (Cooper & Gutowski, 2015). Coal releases toxic mercury, causes asthma and due to its high carbon content, it produces the largest amount of carbon dioxide compared to other fossil fuels during combustion. Coal is, therefore, the principal greenhouse gas emitting fuel. The burning of oil emits greenhouse gasses and smog-causing pollutants in the air, resulting in global warming (Cooper & Gutowski, 2015). The act of drilling and exploration of gas and oil likewise contributes to environmental degradation. Oil spills kill many wildlife, soils beaches, and destroys communities. The increasing demand for oil and gas has brought about onshore activities such as drilling facilities, building of roads and pipelines to facilitate oil recovery has negatively affected the environment by displacing wildlife, destroying habitats and fragmenting public lands.
Urbanization and Deforestation
Industrialization resulted in the rural-urban migration, making the forests vulnerable to clearance to cater for the needed space for settlement and industrial space. The destruction of vegetation cover to provide space for the industries brought about several climatic changes and environmental destruction such as global warming and extinction of various flora and fauna (Tukker, Eder, & Suh, 2006). Industrial revolution contributed to exponential global population growth due to incentives such as better medication and better living standards. Increased population likewise contributed to the clearing of vegetation for settlement, destroying the natural habitats of plants and animals. Enterprise-driven deforestation is directly related to industrialization. Cutting down trees to create space for commercial agriculture has been on the rise due to the increased population. The use of trees as industrial raw materials likewise contributes to deforestation. Reduced vegetation cover reduces the absorption of carbon dioxide by plants, thereby contributing to the greenhouse effect (White, 2002). Increased greenhouse effect means that global temperatures are on the rise, which in turn have contributed to climatic changes such the rise in the sea level, affecting both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
The industrial revolution the resultant innovations such as automobiles and construction works increased the amount of unwanted noise in the environment. Even though other environmental pollutants have been a topic of discussion in all aspects, noise pollution, on the other hand, have received little attention if any. The increased levels of noise have adverse health effects such as hypertension, tinnitus, and loss of hearing. Additionally, noise pollution has severe impacts on mental health regarding amplified stress levels, moody behavior, among others. Apart from affecting humans, noise pollution also affects other animals, causing a disturbance in their ecosystem (White, 2002). Animals are altering their natural behaviors and changing their habitats due to noise pollution, thereby affecting their ecosystem. Noise pollution alters the acoustic environment of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, altering the ability of the animals locate mates, avoid predators and find food.
Effects of Environmental Movement on Industrialization in the US in the 1970s
Industrialization was initially viewed positively, with no consideration given to the effects it would have on the environment such as acid rain, depletion of resources, and gradual decrease in biological diversity among other effects. However, in the 1970s, the emergence of Environmental Movements created awareness of the deteriorating nature of the environment due to the industrial revolution. Initial pressure to conserve the environment came from groups such as the Sierra Club and Greenpeace (Bourgeois, Faber, Dunlap, & Mertig, 1995). These organizations proactively campaigned against pollution, attracting people across all divides. In the 1970s, the first world “Earth Day” was held, with approximately 20 million Americans taking part in campaigns against environmental pollution (Bourgeois, Faber, Dunlap, & Mertig, 1995). Environmental Movements have created awareness of resource depletion, reduced biodiversity and pollution, thereby changing imperialistic views on the environment. A good number of legislations have been passed to protect the environment from industrial pollution because of the awareness created by the environmental movement. The awareness has made industries to embrace environmental conservation as a competitive advantage. The movement recognizes efforts made by industries to conserve the environment by introducing awards to those industries that show significant efforts towards realizing the initiative. Restrictions on industrialization have advanced clean energy among other efforts to conserve the environment.
Environmental Regulation and laws since the 1970s
Industrialization and environmental pollution have pushed for some initiatives by the US government through laws and regulation to support environmental sustainability. The US environmental policy strives to regulate the activities that negatively affect the environment. Performance standards, for instance, have helped in controlling the level of emissions of greenhouse gasses that can be tolerated in the atmosphere, failure to which the industries responsible should be accountable. Global warming has also been mitigated through inducements by the government with market reforms such as emission taxes. Laws such as Clean Air Act (1990), Noise Control Act, Oil Pollution Act, and Healthy Forest Initiative have contributed to environmental conservation in the context of oil pollution and spillage, deforestation, and global warming management (Bourgeois, Faber, Dunlap, & Mertig, 1995). The Noise Control Act, for instance, controls noise pollution to minimize annoyance and protect human health. Mechanisms of standard noise emission act as a measuring gauge to cab this menace.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The perception that the environment is deteriorating in every perspective is fallacious. There are significant positive trends are improving favorably due to science and technology as well as the laws and regulations imposed to curb environmental pollution. Policy and behavioral shifts in the US, for instance, have created pressure on energy intensity, which is a source of the major environmental issues. Problems related to dirty fuels are on the decrease with fuel mix experiencing decarburization, signifying shifts to cleaner energy sources. Additionally, the environmental movement and societies, in general, have shown remarkable mobilization to address environmental pollution and degradation. However, population growth and consumption continue to mount pressure on environmental pollution thereby increasing the burden of sustainability. The policies on the environment and the issues brought about by industrialization make people demand higher environmental quality than before. Therefore, the need for humans to be smarter to curb these challenges of population growth, industrialization and policy shifts. The community should be vigilant, consider waste disposal a serious matter, and observe hygienic initiatives. There should be increased emphasis and enhanced efforts shift to green energy to reduce the level of toxic gasses emitted in the air. Finally, the laws and regulations that are enacted to protect the environment should be stricter to ensure sustainability of the environment in all aspects.
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